Photo Safari South Africa…Check

PART ONE…. INGWELALA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE

It is funny how things work out. When I first entered ‘Photo Safari in South Africa’ on my Bucket List I had no idea how this was going to happen… and then it did.

In 2015 I was working as an Acupuncturist at Sea on the cruise ship Island Princess where I met Liza Parker and we quickly became friends. Liza was the spa manager on the ship and my boss.

Like virtually all of the spa staff she was in her twenty’s and beginning her career and her life. Everyone but me that is, I’m in my sixties and closer to the end of my career then I am the beginning.

During the summer of 2015 we were making weekly cruises to Alaska and the Inside Passage. At one point Liza told me her parents were coming on board and fulfilling one of there bucket list items of cruising to Alaska.

When they arrived Liza introduced me and I quickly became friends with her parents Greg and Gillian. Greg and I clicked immediately as he was also an avid photographer. Before leaving Greg invited me to come to his home in South Africa and vowed to take me on a photo safari.

It took some time due to unforeseen circumstances. I contacted Greg in 2018 at the beginning of the year and said, “I’m coming and will be there in April.” Greg began the task of planning our trip. Over the next couple months Greg and I traded emails deciding where we were going to go. To be fair Greg did all the work and I just agreed.

I arrived in Durban, South Africa in early March just days after my contract ended on the Ruby Princess. I stayed in Durban for a week visiting one of my shipmates, Jillian Sunker.  I enjoyed Durban with Jill as my guide, introducing me to local dishes and she worked hard to make me feel at home.

durban beach1         Durban Beach, South Africa

There are two things that I find truly rewarding working on cruise ships. One is you are able to see the world and in eight years I have been to seventy-two countries and hundreds of ports, many multiple times. The other reason is the many friends you make, some of which will become life long friends like Jill and Liza.

After leaving Durban I flew in Johannesburg and was met at the airport by Greg and Liza. We drove to Pretoria where they have been long term residents and dropped me off at the apartment I rented for a week before we were to leave on our safari.pretoria view          View from my apartment Pretoria, South Africa

The week flew by and Greg, Gill and Liza took me on several day trips around Pretoria, taking me to dinner and showing me many of the landmarks. One of the evenings I was invited to a braai, what we Americans call a barbeque at their home.

This is where I met a family friend Emile Sprenger de Rover and his wife Jane. Emile in the recent past was a manager at the Ingwelala Private Game Reserve, an honorary game warden and has a small cabin there. He was kind enough to be our host, guide and driver at Ingwelala and allowed us to stay at his cabin.

A couple days later we left Pretoria just after sunrise to make the 6-hour drive to Ingwelala. During the journey we traveled through the city of Pretoria, the outskirts and into the countryside. Then the climb began as we wound our way through the mountain passes only to stop at a roadside stand to get a drink and admire the handmade items.

sa_mtn stand1         Roadside stand mountains along the way to Ingwelala

Upon arriving the four of us Emile, Liza, Greg and myself began to set up camp. It took only a short time after which we grabbed our cameras and climbed onboard Emile’s game vehicle and headed into the bush for an afternoon drive that extended well into the evening.

ingwelala gate1         Entrance gate Ingwelala Private Game Reserve

We bounced along the maze of dirt roads and through dry riverbeds. I was amazed how Emile kept track of where we were, literally every road looked the same with only slight variations. Greg, Liza and I did our best to scan the grass fields, look under and in every tree and bush for game and birdlife.

When I was young I went hunting almost every weekend with my grandfather who raised me. He was part Native American and had a reverence for the outdoors and all that lived there. He taught me much about how to find sign and spot game. I have used those skills in my adult life in hunting wildlife with a camera instead of a rifle. However I have to admit Liza has the eye of an eagle that far surpassed mine. I rationalized this thinking “well this is her backyard”.

During the drive we came across herds of impalas with young and old alike. It seemed almost everywhere you turned you would find anywhere from a couple to small herds of maybe 30 – 40 of these graceful antelopes.

impala_two1         Impala

It is the goal when on safari to sight the African Big Five. This consists of cape buffalo, elephants, lions, leopards and rhinoceros. I personally believe there should be a Big Six as cheetahs should be included. Over the ten days were photographed five of the six only lacking the leopard. We did come close one night but by the time we arrived the only thing left was the antelope the leopard carried into the tree only to return some time later that night.

Continuing our drive we also came across our first member of the Big Five, a cape buffalo. We rounded a bend in the road and there were two of these magnificent animals.  They were only about twenty feet away as they stood staring at us. As with all game in the bush you must be on you guard. Cape buffalo has poor eyesight and known to charge without warning.

cape buffalo1a         Cape Buffalo

On the way back to camp that night we made a run to the dirt airstrip that had been cleared leaving foot high brush. When we arrived Emile took out two handheld spotlights and we scanned the airstrip. As we drove we pointed the lights into trees hoping to spot a leopard that was said to be in the area to no avail. We did notice dozens of red eyes staring in our direction and Emile remarked out they were blue wildebeest. Which are very strange looking animals during the day let alone at night on lit by the handheld spotlights.

wildebeast_nite1          Wildebeest at night

Back at camp that later that evening we relaxed and talked about the days adventure. This was old hat for the three of them but completely different from anything I have done in the past.

Later that night while eating dinner we look over our shoulder and there stood a spotted hyena on its hind legs licking the grill. All animals in the reserve are wild and so was this hyena. With a few shouts and waving of our arms he decided to back off.

hyena_nite1         Spotted hyena visiting camp

This is one reason you do not walk around camp at night. There were hyenas and even a leopard spotted within the camp while we were there. All of have attacked and killed those that did not give them the respect they deserve.

There were many highlights at Ingwelala and one of my favorites was photographing a lone hippopotamus. Hippopotamus are highly irritable animals and very protective of their home turf. They are known to have killed many people that ventured too close and feared. We were in a blind and a safe distance watching with cameras clicking away.

hippo1         Hippopotamus

Then the hippo decided to give us a show. All of a sudden while swimming in its private waterhole the hippo slowly did a summersault stopping briefly with all four legs dangling in the air out of the water. It was quite a sight.

hippo_roll1         Hippopotamus on the roll

While in Ingwelala we photographed many different animals and birdlife. Even in camp we were visited by hyenas, dwarf mongoose, warthogs and nyala.

dwarf mongoose tree1          Dwarf Mongoose

warthog babies1          Warthog babies

The Ingwelala River where we stopped for a lunch under a shade tree and admired the view.

ingwelala river1          Ingwelala River for a lunch break

During our five days at Ingwelala were well spent and something I will never forget. If you ever have the chance to go on safari do yourself a favor and go.

greg_liza_emile_cabin1         Greg Parker, Liza Parker and Emile Sprenger de Rover at Emile’s Cabin

 

Skybed Scar LIVES!

First I would like to say thank you to all those that have honored Skybed Scar with your thoughts, your humanity and your love. His photograph has gone viral with over 120,000 hits collectively over a number of websites.

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I’ve had a number of people ask me if the photograph of Skybed Scar is available… I’ve been updating my website today and I said I would let you know when it is posted…

Today is the day… Please visit my website to purchase of photograph of Skybed Scar or just to just the site and see the world through my eyes… I specialize in landscape, travel, fine art and of course wildlife photography…

https://www.larrypannellphotography.com

The Death of a King

We woke to a dark, cloudy day and rain in the Kruger National Park. It was Day Two of five in Kruger after five days of safari in the Ingwelala Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Our agenda for the day was to locate and photograph lions, one of the Big 5 that had eluded us thus far. We have had plenty of other wildlife sightings over the last week including two of the other members of the Big 5, cape buffalo and elephants.

Greg Parker and myself set off in our private vehicle rather then in an organized game drive from the reserve. This allowed us to wonder freely at our own speed and in locations of our choosing. Greg has been to Kruger many times and a life long resident of South Africa and an avid photographer.

After about an hour of driving we came across a small group of four cars that had stopped and pulled to the side of the road. Located in the high grass and within several low-lying trees and brush was a pride of lions consisting of two males, three females and three cubs.

We spend almost two hours photographing the pride as the rain continued under the dark skies. During this time the cubs played with mock attacks on each other, the males remained separate from one another only clashing once and the females roamed the grasses or lay next to one of the males.

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At one point a female walked through the grass calling for her cubs. She covered an area of about the size of a football field and disappeared behind us. I continued to take photographs out the car window, as you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in Kruger for safety reasons and for the well being of the animals.

lion cubs1_190

In a quiet voice Greg leaned over and said “Larry look in the side view mirror”. Glancing down I saw the lioness approaching the car on the shoulder of the road only a few feet away. I asked if I should roll up the window and Greg said just to be quiet, still and calm.

She walked right next to my open window. I could have literally reached out and touched her as she kept walking past me without a care in the world. She veered to her left entering the field again calling to the cubs, which now were running towards her.

lioness calling1_190

Soon after we began driving again in search for more wildlife and hopefully another pride of lions. We were not to be disappointed as within 30 minutes about ten miles away we spotted another pride. This one consisted of three males and one female. The female was injured and could not put any weight on her right front leg as she limped around the out stretched male lions sleeping in the mid-day sun. Every now and then one would roll over with their huge bellies stuffed from a recent kill, legs flopping from one side to the other.

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After spending time photographing two prides we continued down the dirt rode in search of other opportunities neither of us having any idea of what we about to witness.

We decided to try an area where we found a small herd of elephants the day before that was near a watering hole called Rabelias Dam near Orpen Camp. Upon arriving we notice a large male lion crouching on the shore.

male drinking1_190

As our cameras clicked away you could see something was off, his posture just did not look right. On closer examination looking through the lens his left hind leg was protruding and at a strange angle. After he had his fill of water he struggled to his feet hardly able to stand. What you did not notice while he was drinking, he literally was nothing but skin and bones.

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He slowly moved away from the water and staggered as if he was drunk towards a small rise. Every few steps he would stop to catch his breath, his head hanging low until he had enough energy to take a few more steps. Upon reaching the rise he turned to face the water hole and began his slow descent to the ground. About half way down he collapsed the rest of the way. It was evident he was in his last days if not his last hours on this earth.

male laying down1_190

As we continued to watch this once beautiful and strong lion a small herd of elephants arrived at the waters edge. The elephants drank, played squirting water into the air over themselves and others to cool down from the days heat.

elephant water hole 1_190

One of the larger elephants left the others and walked towards the rise not far from where the lion had collapsed as if to stand guard over the herd. At first he did not notice the lion lying low in the grass about 30 yards away trying to stay out of sight.

Then in an instant the elephant reared, ears outstretched and flapping as he took several steps back, trumpeted and charged the lion. Upon hearing the elephant start his charge all the other elephants started to charge as well, trunks in the air trumpeting as the ran towards the lion.

elephant charge 1_190

Maybe in his younger more virile days the lion would have tried to make a stand, at least roar at the top of his lungs. But not now, now it took every bit of energy he had to get to his feet turn and run.

elephant charge 2_190

After everything settled down Greg and I drove to find the lion. We found him lying in the grass, exhausted unable to move. We were no more then five feet from him as he lay dying in the shade of a tree. Dropping my camera we stared at one another locking eyes for what seemed for an eternity. I just wanted him to know that he would not die alone as he struggled to breath, his chest rising only every so often. Then a last twitch of an ear, his last breath, he was gone. The King was dead.

male dying1_190

Over the years as a photojournalist I have photographed people that had lost everything in earthquakes, fires and landslides, people that had been injured, people that were dying but I have never photographed anything as sad as this majestic animal, the true king of the beasts and master of his domain. I will never forget what I was so privileged to have witnessed.

male dying2_190

Later we learned that the name of this noble lion was Skybed Scar. The lion was well known in the Kruger National Park where he roamed and ruled for many years. He lived free and he died free.